Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Inevitable Disclosure"

Imagine that you're working for company X. You decide that it's time to move along to something else. So you interview for and get a job at company Y. The people at company Y are thrilled because you have demonstrated programming skills and problem solving ability. So you turn in your notice at X and prepare to start at Y. Then the lawsuit comes. Companies X and Y, it turns out, are competitors. Company X has decided that, no matter how hard you try, it is inevitable that you will rely on company trade secrets while working for company Y. Thus, your screwed. You can't go back to X, but the court has ruled that you can't work for Y. What do you do?

That is what happened to Dr. Kai-Fu Lee when he left Microsoft to work for Google. According to the article, "Courts making inevitable disclosure rulings tend to bar a worker from a new position for a year or less, but the concept conceivably could keep someone from taking a new job in their field forever." If you quit your current job to start another one, would you be able to live with no income for a year before being able to start? At Microsoft, Dr. Lee founded a research center in China. He was hired by Google to run its China operations. These responsibilities are different enough that there should be no concern of inevitable disclosure. The court disagreed.

These arguments have typically been used sparingly in the past, but the trend is that they have been catching on. Formerly, it was only executives who potentially had to fear these suits. However, the argument is working its way down the ladder. As some court decisions have been written, chief scientists and engineers may soon be at risk. That is not a good sign for workers' rights. Maybe we should all just stay dumb so companies won't think we know anything worth sharing.


At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:23 AM, Blogger Nanette said...

Mike... go to your blogger settings and enable "word verification for comments" under the comments tab. It stopped the ads on my blog. :-)


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